(Clockwise from upper right) 1. Constance Jewell Lopez in "Fools Fall in Love". 2. Anthony Rollins-Mullens, Taylor Jones in "You're the Boss". 3. Dave J. Abrams & Taylor Jones in "Spanish Harlem". 4. Isaiah Tyrelle Boyd, Anthony Rollins-Mullens,Noel Anthony*,Rondrell McCormick* in "Love Potion #9". 5. Taylor Jones in "Don Juan". 6. Taylor Jones, Constance Jewell Lopez*,Brittany Danielle*, Eva Rebane*

SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller. Directed and Choreographed by Robert Barry Fleming & Musical Direction by Sean Kana. Center REPertory Company, 1601 Civic Dr. Walnut Creek, CA. CA. 925-943-7469 or September 2 – October 9, 2011


Once again Center Rep has come up with a standing ovation production. This time around it is SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller jumpin’ and jivin’, shimmyin’ and shakein’ on their main stage. Even before the action begins you get to admire and gawk at Kelly James Tighe’s inventive set constructed of three levels of metal pillars and platforms adorned with neon lights and props suggestive of a 1950s neighborhood.

And how perfect to start the show as the five piece onstage band under the energetic direction of Sean Kana leading the ensemble cast in “Neighborhood.” The show is a paean to the rock-n-roll era created by songwriters Mike Stoller and the late Jerry Leiber (This show is dedicated to Leiber). It is a musical revue without plot or named characters with continuous singing and dancing hardly giving the audience a chance to catch their breath before the next number begins. Speaking of catching their breath, the cast sings with gusto and marvelous interpretation as they perform 39 rock-n-roll pop standards and a huge dollop of rhythm and blues songs. The ever inventive director, Robert Barry Fleming, also is the choreographer and puts the cast through finger snapping, hand clapping routines that are eye popping.

Speaking of eye popping, although it may be unfair to single out individuals, Taylor Jones dressed in a body fitting gold sequined mini skirted dress is a knockout as her graceful ( cross out “graceful” and substitute seductive) body movements spotlighted on the second level platform for “Don Juan” is a knockout. All the actors have their brilliant turn upon the stage. Collectively Dave J. Abrams, Isaiah Tyrelle Boyd, Randal McCormick and Anthony Rollins-Mullens add fire to Fleming’s choreographic demands. They may be demanding but they seem as fresh from their opening number “Young Blood” to the act two “Little Egypt”, “There Goes My Baby” and “Love Potion #9.”

The women not only hold their own with the men but have their own show stoppers. One of my favorites is the ensemble number by Brittany Danielle (yes that Brittany who gave an award winning performance with Becoming Brittany last year at Off Center stage) Constance Jewell Lopez, Eva Rebane and Taylor Jones were dynamite in “I’m a Woman.” When it is full bodied Constance Jewell Lopez’s turn she belts a song with a guttural tremolo that brings the rafters down with “Fools Fall in Love”, “Hound Dog” and the gospel “Saved.” Eva Rebane shines with “Pearl’s a Singer” and with Rondell in”Love Me/Don’t.”

Local favorite Noel Anthony gets his turn and does a fine job with Brittany in “Teach me to Shimmy” and with the company in “Jail House Rock.” Anthony Rollins-Mullens adds much of the humor with his basso interjections and as the dunce-capped “Charlie Brown and with Taylor Jones “You’re the Boss.” If you have never seen 6-pack abs, you will when you see bare-chested Dave J. Abrams sing the lovely ballad “Spanish Harlem” to Taylor Jones.

Before I forget, three cheers of Victoria Livingston-Hall’s costume design. In the second act the males look spiffy and show a real touch of class in white dinner jackets, black outfits with red ties. The women’s clothing are too numerous to mention ranging from, sexy to gorgeous and mundane when they should be.

There are many, many accolades that need mentioning but be advised to get your tickets early to find out what they are. This show is sure to be a sell out. Sadly it only lasts less than two hours with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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